James Stambaugh was determined to go with his wife of 64 years.
On Feb. 5, James was having chest pains. His three sons took him to the hospital. While he was there, his wife, Betty, 81, died at their home in York Springs from complications from a 10-year battle with lung cancer.
The next morning, James died. He was 83.
In the weeks leading up to their deaths, James "told me, 'I’m going with her,'” said Iva Stambaugh, wife of their son, Jeff.
Was the timing of their deaths related to illness or a broken heart? Oldest son, David, feels it was both.
“They stayed together for 64 years,” said Jim, their youngest son. “That’s amazing.”
But this wasn’t the first time this has happened in Stambaugh family history. James' mother, Vivian Stambaugh, died one day after her husband, Vernon, in June 2000. They had been together for almost 70 years.
Both Betty and James were battling illness. Betty fought lung cancer for ten years, and James had retinal degeneration and suffered from other complications from Wegeners, an autoimmune disease. When Betty was first diagnosed with cancer, the doctors said she had six months to a year left. She went on to live for ten more. Their son, Jim, said his mother got as close to beating cancer as you can.
“She was a fighter,” said Sabrina Zumbrum, her oldest granddaughter.
Betty and James were lifelong members of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Franklintown. Ronald Henry, a fellow member and friend, said Betty was too sick to come to church for the past two years, but he and other church members frequently visited the couple. He said despite the cancer, she was always upbeat.
“When you would go see her she would cheer you up,” Henry said.
Their three sons said their parents did nearly everything together. Sherrie, Jim’s wife, said she always remembered the two of them holding hands.
“They were determined to take care of each other,” Zumbrum said.
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On Saturday, the three brothers and their families gathered around Jim’s kitchen table in Dillsburg and recalled stories of picking cherries in the summer for their mother, bowling in a league together, how much their mother loved to talk and help others and their dad’s love of ice cream and baseball.
“They’re going to be missed,” David said.
Jeff and his wife, Iva, lived close to his parents, in a house his dad built. James built all three of his son’s homes and his own.
“You can’t just run over there to see them anymore,” Jim said.
The memorial services for both will be held 2 p.m., Feb. 26 at the Emmanuel Lutheran Church.
“The world is missing a great couple,” Henry said.